This “cocktail-of-the-week” column is generally an exploration of the work that bartenders — who may or may not call themselves mixologists — are doing.
But sometimes life calls not for cocktails but for mixed drinks. There's a difference. Cocktails involve more than two ingredients, with some element perhaps made in-house, and the bartender probably needs to slap at least one herb, whereas a mixed drink is just two liquids poured into one glass.
Los Angeles has a proud tradition of dive bars, the natural home of the mixed drink. These bars have wood-paneled walls, carpet so old you can't really tell it's carpet, and mirrors etched with booze-company logos. The bartenders aren't unfriendly, but they are no-nonsense. There are so many talented musicians living in L.A. that often the live music at these dives is actually quite good.
First Cabin Bar in Arcadia is the perfect dive bar. It's in a commercial area that otherwise closes down at 9 p.m., and on nights when it's hosting live music, you can hear it from a couple blocks away. Walking to the front door, you'll see the wood sign announcing that the bar opens at 6 a.m.
It's dark inside, with light coming from the stage and the one TV. The liquor selection is small and sufficient. A Jack and ginger is the ideal drink to order. To taste it, one imagines this is how it was made: First, the bartender put some ice in the glass (which, it should be noted, at First Cabin is a very heavy tumbler). Then he filled it with whiskey. Then he held a can of ginger ale near the glass. Voila.
Don't drink and drive.
46 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia; (626) 446-2575.